“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – A. A. Milne
SIEGE ENGINE had just successfully retrieved the second of three Puzzle Boxes and was ready for a rest before heading off to I’Jin’s shrine. Tydohr Slowhammer (5th level Half-Orc Barbarian) led the group to a nearby ruin. Within the ruin was an abandoned campsite. Torn backpacks and rotted gear littered the ground around three
moldering tents. At the center of the camp, near a well-used fire ring, a scrap of dirty yellow cloth hung from a crude wooden flagpole. Paying little or no attention to the things scattered around within the ruins, the group bedded down for a rest.
During this time, Jäger von Grauemhügel (5th level Human Ranger) decided that he wanted to steal the Puzzle Box from Tydohr. With the help of Durcrath Urrhishtaajuc (5th level Dragonborn Monk) he was successful. Jäger placed the box into his pack for safe keeping.
As the group packed up, nobody seemed to notice that Durcrath was talking to himself as this had become a “normal” habit as the Dragonborn talked with the spirit of Kubazan. Before long, Durcrath was sharing a story about the history of I’jin with the group as they walked to the third shrine.
“Long ago,” said Durcrath, “the god Ubtao hardened his heart and vowed to weep for the people of Omu no longer. The rains stopped, the jungle withered and died, and death swept through Omu.” Durcrath paused for a moment and then continued. “One morning, a wise zorbo emerged from her hollow tree and spoke to the dying Omuans. To convince Ubtao of their worth, she decided to cook him a stew made from I’jin their good qualities. Catching such virtues wouldn’t be easy, so she asked a wily almiraj to help her. The almiraj snuck recklessness in the pot, which she saw as a virtue, and Ubtao spat out the stew when he tasted it. From that day on, Obo’laka the zorbo and l’jin the almiraj became terrible enemies.”
By the time Durcrath finished the tale they arrived at the shrine. Cracked monoliths flanked the entrance to this ruin. Saw-edged ferns grew in the courtyard between broken flagstones. A pair of stone doors provided entry to a large, flat-roofed single story ruin. Durcrath used his great strength to shove open the doors, and a single almiraj darted quickly out and into the bushes.
Dahr Dracklestone (5th level Dwarf Warlock) quickly gave chase followed by Tydohr and Jäger. Durcrath and Annie Oaklee (5th level Half-Elf Fighter) watched the three rush off and then walked into the shrine where they found the interior of the primary room was decorated with sculptural reliefs on the floor, walls, and ceiling. The carvings depicted a horned rabbit charging a small, feral-looking bear with sharp claws. A cuneiform message is etched above the doors, reading “l’jin
teach es us to take the path least expected.”
Meanwhile, Dahr, Tydohr, and Jäger chased the almiraj through the bushes and watched as a tiny arrow lodged in its midsection and it flopped twice across the ground to land twitching near a large patch of bright yellow flowers. Dahr acted quickly, scooping the almiraj up, removing the arrow, and feeding it a Healing Potion.
“Hey!” shouted someone from somewhere off to the right of the group. “That’s my dinner, leave it alone!” They looked to see a Tabaxi (pronounced “ta-BACK-see”) up about sixty feet in a palm tree. It was wearing leather armor, a large headdress made of saw-bladed ferns, and holding a longbow. Obviously, the group had disturbed its hunting.
Dahr protested, claiming that the horned rabbit was a sacred animal. The Tabaxi scoffed at this, saying they were nuisance creatures plentiful to this area of the city. The argument continued until Tydohr had enough, shouting at the Tabaxi in an attempt to intimidate him. The overt hostile behavior fueled a “fight or flight” sensation within the Tabaxi who began to fire his arrows at his newly discovered prey. Meanwhile, the freshly healed almiraj wiggled loose of Dahr’s grip and scrambled away into the jungle.
Tydohr and Jäger both shot at the Tabaxi but missed. Dahr summoned up his fiendish pact magic, calling forth a fireball that he hurled at the Tabaxi. When the flames and smoke cleared, they saw that Dahr has set a few palm trees on fire but that the Tabaxi had moved within amazing speed to leap into another tree on the opposite side of the clearing.
In time, it was obvious that the Tabaxi was enjoying this game of cat-and-mouse. He explained that his name was “Bag of Nails” and he had left his clan near Bulobo to seek out a “glorious death.” And when they asked him who he served, Bag of Nails simply replied, “The Cat Lord.”
Although the three were having trouble injuring Bag of Nails, the Tabaxi Hunter managed to hit Dahr and Jäger with magical darts that imparted serious effects. Dhar was hit with a dart and a symbol of a cat’s head was seared into his flesh. As the symbol appeared, he found himself paralyzed! Similarly, Jäger was hit by a dart and as the symbol seared into his flesh, he felt dazed and suddenly weak.
At about this time, Durcrath and Annie arrived. Durcrath started to talk with Bag of Nails who seemed more than happy to talk although he never took his eyes off of this three opponents.
… to be continued …
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